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How to Keep Work Stress from Taking Over Your Life

How to Keep Work Stress from Taking Over Your Life
Take regular breaks throughout the day to clear your mind and recharge.

Today, I want to explore a topic that is close to home for many of us: managing work stress before it starts to manage us.

These days, I’m lucky enough to have a fairly stress-free job where I can manage my own diary and workload, but it hasn’t always been this way.

Let's be real for a moment. Working in accounts wasn't always rainbows and butterflies. Sure, there were days when everything balanced perfectly, and you felt like you were on top of the world. But then there were those other days—the ones when deadlines are looming, bosses are demanding, and the pressure seems suffocating.

I remember one particular year-end that pushed me to my limits. The office was buzzing with activity, phones ringing off the hook, and emails flooding in faster than I could keep up. Deadlines were looming, and it felt like there simply weren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. Sound familiar?

In the midst of the chaos, I found myself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and on the verge of burnout. It seemed like no matter how hard I worked, there was always more to be done. It was a vicious cycle, and I knew something had to change.

That's when I made a conscious decision to learn how to control my stress before it took control of me. I implemented a few simple strategies that not only helped me survive that hectic period but also transformed the way I approached work stress moving forward.

In this article, I'll share those strategies with you in just a minute because let's face it—we could all use a little help keeping our sanity intact during the busiest times of the year. So buckle up, grab your favourite beverage, and let's look at the art of keeping work stress from overtaking your life. Trust me, your health will thank you for it.

The Toll of Stress

Before we discuss strategies for tackling work stress, let's acknowledge the very real toll it can take on our health and overall quality of life. As someone who's experienced stressful month-ends, VAT Quarters, and year-end crunches, I've felt firsthand the physical and mental strain that accompanies high levels of stress at work.

From sleepless nights and increased anxiety to headaches, muscle tension, and even digestive issues, the symptoms of chronic stress can manifest in a variety of ways. But the effects go beyond just physical discomfort. Prolonged exposure to stress can also lead to burnout, decreased productivity, strained relationships, and overall dissatisfaction with life.

So, how can we combat the negative impact of work stress and reclaim our sense of balance and well-being? Here are six tried-and-tested strategies that have helped me navigate the corporate world of work without letting stress pull me under:

Prioritise and Plan: Take a step back and assess your workload. Identify the most urgent and important tasks and tackle them first. Break larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks and create a realistic timeline for completion. By having a clear plan of action, you can reduce feelings of overwhelm and regain a sense of control.

Example: During the year, I created a detailed schedule outlining deadlines for each VAT return/deadline. This helped me stay organised and ensured that nothing fell through the cracks.

Set Boundaries: Learn to say no when your plate is already full, and don't be afraid to delegate tasks when appropriate. Establishing boundaries around your time and energy is crucial for preventing burnout and preserving your mental health.

Example: I used to struggle with saying no to extra projects or last-minute requests from my boss. However, I learned that setting boundaries allowed me to prioritise my workload and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Even if this was just as simple as asking how urgent the task was and managing my to-do list accordingly.

Practice Mindfulness: Take regular breaks throughout the day to clear your mind and recharge. Whether it's a quick walk around the block, a stretch at your desk, a few minutes of deep breathing, or a short meditation session, incorporating mindfulness practices into your routine can help reduce stress and improve focus.

Example: When I felt my stress levels rising, I would step away from my desk and spend a few minutes practising mindfulness exercises. This helped me regain perspective and approach tasks with a renewed sense of clarity.

Take Care of Your Body: Make self-care a priority by prioritising healthy habits such as regular exercise, stretching, nutritious meals, and adequate sleep. Physical activity is a powerful stress reliever and can help boost mood and energy levels.

Example: Instead of succumbing to the temptation of late-night takeout and caffeine binges, I made an effort to prioritise my health. I would meal prep nutritious lunches, carve out time for classes at the gym, and make sure I had my regular reflexology and massage appointments in the diary.

Set Realistic Expectations: Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically accomplish in a given timeframe. Don't strive for perfection—aim for progress instead. Celebrate small victories along the way and cut yourself some slack when things don't go as planned.

Example: I used to put immense pressure on myself to deliver flawless work every time. But I've come to realise that perfection is an impossible standard. Now, I focus on doing my best and learning from my mistakes along the way.

Unplug and Disconnect: Create boundaries between work and personal life by unplugging from technology outside of office hours. Set specific times when you'll check and respond to emails, and resist the urge to check your phone for updates constantly.

Example: I used to have a bad habit of checking my work email before bed, which inevitably led to stress-induced insomnia. Now, I make a conscious effort to disconnect from technology at least an hour before bedtime to give my mind a chance to unwind.

Taking Control of Work Stress

These days, stress is often seen as an unavoidable part of having a job. But it doesn't have to be that way. By implementing these six strategies—prioritising and planning, setting boundaries, practising mindfulness, taking care of your body, setting realistic expectations, unplugging and disconnecting —you can take control of your stress and prevent it from overtaking your life.

And above all, be kind to yourself. You're doing the best you can in a demanding world, and that's something to be proud of.

Take a moment to assess your current stress levels and identify one or two strategies from this article that you can implement right away. Whether it's booking yourself in for a relaxing treatment and prioritising self-care, chatting to your boss about your workload, or practising mindfulness, taking proactive steps to manage your stress can make all the difference in your overall well-being. You've got this!

Managing stress isn't just about surviving; 

it's about thriving and safeguarding your well-being in the process.

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